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For now, the Xbox One looks … weird

By: 24 May 2013 24 Comments

Illuminati!Just a couple of days ago, we wrote about the somewhat limited unveiling of the Xbox One. Yes, Microsoft is coming out with a new game console sometime this year and managed to leave a lot of questions unanswered about what, exactly, this new critter will be.

Our millions (thousands? hundreds? tens?) of fans will no doubt remember when we selected The Video Game Critic as our Awesome Site of the Week. There was a good reason for that –heading over there is where anyone with questions about video games past or present can go and get some answers as well as join in a discussion or two at the forums. Those forums have been going nuts over the past few days over the Xbox One as a lot of people have some questions to which they’re trying to find answers about the machine.

Want to join in the fun? Just click here to head to the forums and join the fray. None other than David Mrozek — The Critic himself — invited First Arkansas News to come over and have a look at the Xbox One discussion and you know we just had to accept and report back on some of the concerns that were raised. And, oh man, there are some concerns and good grounds for them.

Let’s talk about a couple of them, shall we?

Used games. What about them?

One of the major concerns raised has to do with whether people will be able to buy used games and play them on the Xbox One. The theory is that people who purchase physical discs will be the only ones who can use them. In other words, you buy a disc, slap it on your system, register it with Xbox Live and then the disc is worthless to anyone who doesn’t purchase an access key.

Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb — one of the muckety-mucks with Xbox Live — addressed that concern on his site:

We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.

Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.

Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.

Still confused? That’s no surprise seeing how Hyrb didn’t exactly answer the question. The question is pretty simple — will this thing accept used games or not? Yes, the Xbox One has been designed to “enable … customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” but that more than hints at the notion that a used disc will only be worth anything if the purchaser buys an access key. How much will that code cost? The same as a new game or less?

Microsoft (which, of course, is still considering scenarios) hasn’t gotten into that. However, the company does have some experience in selling licensed software, doesn’t it? If I want to upgrade a Windows 7 computer to Windows 8, the cost for the consumer version of the operating system costs $119.99 regardless of whether the user downloads it or purchases it on DVD. See, the physical disk is worthless under that scenario — Microsoft is selling licenses and has made billions of dollars doing that, so why would the company view games differently?

That’s a major issue for a lot of reasons. First of all, I’d argue that part of the value in purchasing a game comes form being able to sell that game to someone else down the road. Let’s say Joe pays $60 for the hottest game on the block, takes it home and either hates it or gets bored with it in a couple of weeks. Traditionally, Joe’s been able to get at least part of his money back by heading down to the local used game store and selling it or putting it on eBay. If the Xbox One takes that ability away from Joe, then he’s got a disc on his hands that may be worthless to anyone not buying an access code from Microsoft.

Let’s say that Microsoft does clamp down on used games sales by applying its “you’re just buying a license” philosophy to them. Will a corresponding cut in the prices of those games come along with them because the resell value is all but gone? Probably not. No, Joe will still have to pay his $60, but will have something less valuable than he does when purchasing a game for any console in the current generation.

Of course, Microsoft could push for online downloads, but the question of value remains — is that game worth $60 if you can’t sell the thing when you get tired of it? There’s a reason apps for smartphones and tablets tend to be inexpensive — they’re one shot items that are worthless to anyone but the people purchasing them.

And, what of the huge used video game market? I can think of three stores locally that generate a lot of revenue from buying and selling used games. What happens to those stores should the used game market be gone? Sure, they can always count on people like me to show up and dig through games from consoles that have been out of production for years, but the largest sections in those stores are almost always dedicated to current generation titles. The reason for that is simple — everyone wants to save a buck or two these days, and purchasing discounted current generation titles allows happy gamers to expand their libraries for a lot less than they can by paying retail prices.

Finally, what happens to a games collection Microsoft releases a new console and stops supporting the One? If I have to register a game on the Internet, what happens when the servers supporting the one are taken offline? A lot of people collect video games for a hobby (yes, I’ve still got my old Atari and at least one console from every generation since) but will that be possible with the One?

Again, all of these concerns may be minor if Microsoft decides to slap a huge discount on new titles, but how likely is that?

Why does Kinect always have to be on and why does the Xbox One have to connect to the Internet at least once a day?

A few folks over at The Critic’s forums have raised those questions and for good reason — what information is Microsoft collecting and what will the company do with it? While I’m not overly concerned about the Kinect camera activating itself and watching me lounge around in my recliner while watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, I do wonder about what habits of mine the Xbox One would be collecting as I play games, watch television in conjunction with the console, stream movies, etc.

While Microsoft has said the Kinect microphone will always be on so that people can use limited voice commands to turn on the machine, have a look at this article about a patent application Microsoft has filed. In a nutshell, that article suggests the Kinect’s camera could be used to monitor how many people are in front of your television — if you stream a movie and too many people are gathered in your living room to watch it, the system could shut down unless you agree to cough up more cash to purchase a license covering those additional viewers.

See any problems there? In addition to the odd notion of allowing a content provider to view the inside of my home and determine how many people I can let watch a movie I’m streaming, it’s downright creepy to realize a device in my living room could be used to see what I’m up to whenever Microsoft wants. Privacy concerns? A few, particularly since the Kinect is perfectly capable of spying on its owners. That ability will probably never be used, but it’s still creepy. Bear in mind that the Xbox One won’t work if the Kinect isn’t connected. I suppose anyone worried about how the Kinect is to be used can cover it with a shoebox. Still…

Also, why will the Xbox One need to connect to the Internet at least once a day to function? What information will be sent back to Microsoft and how will it be used? The Critic himself mentioned on his forum that Microsoft could simply be monitoring behavior so the company can figure out how to squeeze more money out of me. That’s bad enough, of course, and there could be some potential for abuse there.

You can watch television on the Xbox One! Really!

Microsoft has made a point out of all the cool ways the One will improve our relationships with our televisions. That’s an odd statement to make, particularly since I get along with my television just fine. I’ve got a cable box with a built in DVR and program guide, as well as a remote control that makes controlling it all beyond easy.

Apparently, the Xbox One wants to make the whole process easier by inserting itself between my cable box (yes, it seems you’ll still need that) and the television. Yes, the Xbox One will be able to suggest programs, show me a pretty program guide and allow me to integrate my television watching with other stuff I can do on my Xbox.

Here’s the question — why the heck does anyone need any of that? Assuming you’ll need to buy Xbox Live Gold subscription to integrate your cable box with your One, does it make a whole lot of sense to pay a fee to use a service for which you are already paying. Microsoft pulls that now on the Xbox 360 with Netflix — in order to stream that service through the 360, you’ll have to buy a Gold subscription. It costs me nothing extra to stream Netflix through my Nintendo Wii, Apple iPhone 4S or Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ tablet, so why is Microsoft different? Here’s the question — if the Xbox One does more, will Microsoft crank up its Xbox Live Gold subscription price, too?

The whole “you can watch TV on this” brings up a point about the One that drives me nuts. When I buy a game system, that’s pretty much all that I want. Sure, I stream Netflix through my Wii, but it used to be that a game console was just that — a device that was dedicated to just games.

VGC Forum member Irenicus summed up the concerns about the Xbox One quite well:

As a consumer If I buy the Xbox One I won’t be getting what I want. All I want is a video game machine that has better graphics and abilities than last gen’s PS3 & 360.

I don’t want to have to use the internet to play games. I do want to own my games and I don’t want a camera connected through the internet in my house.

Here’s the thing: There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to buy a video game console that does the things I want. I’ve been buying consoles like this since 1985.

Microsoft is forcing things upon its customers that they don’t want. Why would anyone defend that? If Microsoft made it optional to be online or optional to buy digital or optional to have a camera in your house than that would be all good.

If people can’t understand that than apply the same logic to other things in your life. Imagine all automobile makers force everyone to take a breathalyzer and a urinalysis every time before you can start your car. That would suck wouldn’t it? Sure just don’t buy an Xbox One. Sure just don’t buy a car. Sure you can do that, but why can’t I use these products without the asinine restrictions?

While The Critic is known for great, concise reviews of video games, there’s a lot more to the site than just that. Pay The Critic a visit if you haven’t already done that.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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